LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph

About Antonin Kratochvil

Homeland. You can really only have one which understands you the most and I think Czech Republic is mine. It drives you crazy because its part of you and it reflects you. Its like every day you are under scrutiny. Itʼs a self-critique. You face yourself every day in other people. Itʼs a combination of smells, sounds, food. Every country has a different smell. Right now, Iʼm sitting in my country house and I smell lilac, which was always associated with spring. Domovina. It was a quest. Especially in the early days of my exile when all I had were memories. Finally, when I got my US citizenship, I could go back. Domovina. Photography was like a therapy for me. Psychotherapy. The process of coming back, reflecting and understanding myself and my country and where I come from… I could put what I felt into photographs. I think Iʼm fortunate.

“Photography for me is a way of getting my own pain out. It is pointing a finger and accusing” – Antonin Kratochvil

I remember in America one of my friends said, “Where are you going?” And I said, “Iʼm going home.” He was shocked because he thought my home was in America. It didnʼt work with me. I didnʼt try to assimilate. I always knew I wanted to go home. In a casket or in a plane, either way. I said to my wife when I die bury me in my favorite forest where I used to go trekking as a teenager. Sometimes Iʼm very happy here and sometimes Iʼm very depressed. But I came back and I know why I left. I finally understand why I got out. It felt so good coming home.

Antonin Kratochvil is one of the founders of VII photo agency. As a photojournalist Kratochvil has sunk his teeth into his fair share of upheaval and human catastrophes while passionately pursuing his documentation of the time in which he lives. Kratochvilʼs own refugee life has often mirrored what he has rendered on film. Kratochvil has received numerous awards including the three First Prize World Press Photo Awards, Medal from the City of Prague for Photography awarded by the Mayor of Prague, Alfred Eisenstadt Award for Eyewitness Essay for Life Magazine, A Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Photojournalism and numerous others. In addition, Kratochvil has published many books including: Broken Dream: 20 Years of War in Eastern Europe, Vanishing, a collection of natural and human phenomena that are on the verge of extinction and Afterlife, the story of an old woman who refuses to leave her farm in the exclusion zone in Chernobyl.

“Antonin Kratochvil is a photographer with a deep and soulful commitment to the humanist vision in photography. His photographs draw deeply on his own extraordinary journey and refugee experience. He has a remarkable way of sharing this voice through the light and shadows that drive his astonishing compositions and his visual storytelling.” – Ken Light